Since Obama entered office, liberals have developed a rhetorical trick meant to highlight the extremism his opponents. When Mitch McConnell or John Boehner or anyone else comes out against a policy or approach—new taxes, Keynesian spending—liberals will note these policies weren’t always anathema to conservatives.
We don't yet know how many people watched Bill Clinton's speech last night, but since on the first night of the Democratic convention ratings were a bit higher than for the Republican convention, it's fair to assume we're talking about something in the vicinity of 30 million viewers. Which is fine, but it isn't anything close to a majority of the electorate. But even if most voters didn't actually see Clinton's speech, just the fact that everyone is aware that he's out there vouching for Barack Obama can have an impact. Because the basic question of the campaign—should we keep this guy and his people in charge, or turn it over to that other guy and his people?—will be answered in a context created by people's memories of recent history.
Before Mitt Romney takes the stage today to deliver his acceptance speech, we'll probably get to see a biographical video explaining who Romney is, where he comes from, what he believes, and why he's right for America. The convention film has become one of the centerpieces of these gatherings, so we thought we'd take a little tour of some of the best films from the past to see what makes a good convention film and we might be in for. The convention film may not seem like such a big deal when the campaigns put out videos of some kind or another nearly every day, but it's their only chance to have a highly produced ten minutes or so viewed by tens of millions of voters, all at the same time.
Yesterday, Mitt Romney unveiled a new attack that—even by the standards of his campaign—was incredible in its dishonesty. First, a little background. A few weeks ago, after urging from both Republican and Democratic govenors, the administration allowed states more flexibility when it came to fulfilling welfare work requirements. The memo, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, stipulates that states can receive a waiver as long as their programs achieve the same work goals as the original program. The hope is that, with flexibility to try new approaches, more recipients can be placed into jobs.
Given the numbers, Ross Douthat argues, Mitt Romney isn’t far away from where Ronald Reagan was in 1980, or Bill Clinton in 1992:
The last two times an incumbent president was defeated by a challenger – Jimmy Carter in 1980 and George Bush in 1992 – the hinge moment arrived only in the last few months of the campaign. In 1980, it came after the lone debate, when Ronald Reagan’s smooth, reassuring performance turned a tight race into a walkover. In 1992, it arrived with the Democratic Convention, when the one-two punch of Ross Perot’s temporary exit and the Clinton campaign’s skillful “place called Hope” showmanship propelled Bill Clinton to a lead he never relinquished.
Fittingly, the only thing that distinguished Mitt Romney’s speech to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials from his usual stump address was the slight focus on Latino unemployment, and a fairly a brief mention of immigration.
He offered a few ideas—prioritizing green cards for families, eliminating “bureaucratic red tape,” completing a high tech fence, creating an easier path to citizenship for service-members, and implementing an “improved exit verification system.” He didn’t say whether he would rescind Obama’s immigration order, but he pledge to put in place a “long-term solution that will replace and supersede the President’s temporary measure.”
Mitt Romney is running as the Trojan Horse candidate of 2012, the big empty gift to America who will be wheeled into the gates of Election Night only for the bottom to pop out the next morning and whatever lurks inside to reveal itself. Watching his small disaster of an interview on Face the Nation this past weekend, we can only conclude he believes he will win the presidency by answering and offering nothing in the most calculatedly vacuous campaign since Richard Nixon’s in 1968. The difference is that in 1968 the American public knew Nixon all too well and, compared with the specifics of Nixon that people had understood for years, a vague Nixon was considered a step in the right direction.
In the eyes of most of the world and in our own, to be an American is to be an optimist—entrepreneurial, positive-thinking, and future-oriented. It is not surprising, then, that our politics has not come to grips with the question of national decline. Yes, our governing elites have long debated America’s power in the world and whether it’s eroding. But about the future of Americans, as opposed to the future of the geopolitical hegemon, America, our most important politicians and pundits have much less to say. Despite the bitter public arguments over tax and budget policies, they share the implicit assumption that even harder times are ahead for the majority of Americans—if not 99 percent then at least 75 percent to 80 percent.
I tackle that question in a new post at 538. The analysis involves constructing a model of presidential approval from 1948-2008 and forecasting values for Obama. On average he is about nine points more popular than the model would predict. Out-of-sample predictions for Obama and past presidents are here (click to enlarge):
Yesterday, Mitt Romney dismissed the idea that President Obama had anything to do with preventing a Great Depression. If we can thank anyone, he declared, it’s George W. Bush:
“I keep hearing the president say he’s responsible for keeping the country out of a Great Depression,” Romney said at a town hall in Arbutus, Maryland. “No, no, no, that was President George W. Bush and [then-Treasury Secretary] Hank Paulson.”
Tonight, the Obama campaign will release a sort-of-anticipated 17-minute video, telling the story of the Obama administration's challenges and achievements in an effort to help frame the debate about how to understand its first term. I'll offer some comments on it tomorrow, but for now I thought I'd take the opportunity to assemble some of these videos from prior campaigns...
Unless there’s a psychic shift in the Republican Party soon, this past Tuesday evening the campaign for its presidential nomination became sui generis. On its face, the race conforms to the establishment-versus-insurgency template that’s characterized past contests, such as the 1976 GOP race in which Ronald Reagan nearly took the nomination from sitting incumbent Gerald Ford, and the 1980 race in which Edward Kennedy couldn’t liberate Jimmy Carter of the Democratic nomination, so he stole the party’s heart instead. The dynamic in both cases was that once the party dutifully resolved to remain in its marriage to the dour Gerald Ford or Carter, it had one last doomed fling with heartthrobs Reagan and Kennedy in order not to forget who it really yearned for.
While Rick Perry campaigned in South Carolina Thursday, criticizing Mitt Romney's tenure at Bain while bragging about his own pro-business record, another controversial conservative governor was hanging out in Texas: Scott Walker. The Wisconsin governor, who sparked a firestorm last spring with his effort to eliminate collective-bargaining rights for state employees, keynoted a lunch at the Texas Public Policy Foundation's annual legislative orientation, held at the Hilton Hotel. Outside, a large crowd protested with signs supporting the effort to recall the polarizing Wisconsin chief executive.
Here’s how the New York Post’s Andrea Peyser began a column (“Jobless & Shameless Gal Going for Gold”) on one of the women charging Herman Cain with sexual harassment:
Gold diggers—unite! Sharon Bialek is 50, out of work and, according to one who knows her, she’s a smooth operator living way above her means. From the look of her heavily painted face, she’s also soon to be in acute need of a new tub of eyeliner.